In the past 10 years, particularly the most recent five, social networks have changed the way we interact with the world. Sure, the internet began this process 20 years ago beginning with bulletin board services like Compuserve, AmericaOnline, and a few others. This marks the day when we began to interact with others in a social manner through the digital medium in anything close to the way we do today. Back in 1995, AOL chatrooms were full of users interacting, and in increasingly frequent cases, this led to meet ups of all sizes and for many different reasons, such as dating, fellowshipping, common causes, etc. In those days, while social networking was in it’s infancy, it was looked on by many as sketchy and weird. Visionary thinking, huh?
Fast forward to 2003, when MySpace was launched, social networking took on an entirely different meaning, role, and purpose. Instead of of focusing on chat settings, MySpace focused on ongoing mutual connections. The difference? Instead of brief encounters of a variety of types and descriptions, users made lasting connections with other users through “friend” connections. A few years later, Facebook went online and within just a few years eclipsed MySpace. There are many theories on why Facebook was ultimately more successful. Our position is that Facebook was attractive to a broader age group, whereas MySpace seemed to be confined to young people. If you were a 35 year old with a MySpace account, other users were offering you Ensure and warning you to be careful not to break a hip today.
It was the initial surge of MySpace, however, that put social networking, as we know it today, on the map. If you look at business history, the initial architect of a concept is usually not the one who strikes the motherlode, and this is true in the Facebook/MySpace story. And to be fair, Facebook did some things that MySpace ignored, such as create inviting warmth for users of all ages through it’s toned-down graphical interface. MySpace also tended to focus on entertainment and music while Facebook was immediately more diversified when it broke out of it’s college networking initial phase. There were some privacy issues Facebook faced in it’s first 5 years of existence, all of which have been overcome through user-defined settings.
Then there’s Twitter. The initial reaction to twitter when it began to come of age was, “what is the use of this?” People talked in to getting Twitter accounts by their friends, but who also didn’t understand the value, were tweeting sarcastic things like, “I am going somewhere now.” It took a while to understand how Twitter works, and the main difference is that Twitter is a social networking service that facilitates connections with other users that are not necessarily mutual, and no initial acceptance is required by either user. In other words, a user can be followed, which means their tweets are seen by the follower on their own timeline, but the followed user may not follow back and will see none of the other’s activity. Twitter has garnered extreme significance in social networking, but it is more complex to create leverage. Essentially, a user follows people they are interested in for whatever reason and in so doing exposes this interest to other users who may decide to follow them, not to mention a flow back from the people of the initial interest.
Facebook is king in the social networking realm, with Twitter, YouTube, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram following. What’s interesting is these social networks actually perform different functions, functions which can be leveraged to assist in the marketing platform of virtually any business. These services are providing referrals to websites in different ways. Through Facebook’s “Open Graph Protocol,” companies can control their branding to provide a very cohesive presentation across platform. The best part is that basic services are free.
Search engines have openly admitted that they are analyzing social relevance of a website as this relates to their presence in social networks, and injecting this relevance into their search algorithm. This is, of course, based on the belief that users and companies that strive to properly represent themselves in the social realm through relevant content will be more attractive to search customers and the search provider reaches it’s goal of providing rich content to search users. Therefore, attention to consistency, detail, presentation aesthetics, and rich, relevant content in social networks, supported by optimized tie-in to websites is a powerful tool in branding. These efforts pay off in excellent relationships with customers and inter-fuel old school referral systems such as word-of-mouth. It’s all connected.
At MaddMarketing, we design digital platforms that exalt your presence in the marketplace, and which provide ongoing rich experiences by your customers after the intervention, treatment, and/or counseling experience is over. We help you maintain these relationships so that they produce residual referral and success for your product.